NUTS – Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe For Business And Personal Success – Book Review

NUTS is the truly inspirational story of how Southwest Airlines took on the big boys and won.  Southwest Airlines revolutionised the Airline industry by challenging the norms and doing many unconventional things.  They hire for attitude and fit and have built a culture of family and collaboration to meet the basic needs of their customers.  They do one thing, and do it well.  The book shows that you do not have to follow the crowd to be successful.  It also shows how tough business can be and how ruthlessly others can attack you.  However, it paints a picture of an underdog who has highly engaged staff that work together, having been given authority and responibility, and how the underdog can overcome and beat the large, established “best practice” companies in the world

This book is split up into many topics and gives examples and stories of how Southwest Airlines approached situations.  Below are a couple of the stories that I really enjoyed.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

“Southwest is anything but traditional.  Its unconventional and non-conformist approach has helped the airline simplify its business and stay focused on adding value to the service it can give its customers.  Until 1989 Southwest issued cash-register receipts as tickets.  Customers unfamiliar with Southwest’s operations started complaining because they had lost their tickets among other receipts, ran them through the wash, or inadvertently threw them away.  In the meeting where executives were debating the issue, an obvious alternative to go to a multimillion dollar system that produced the traditional multilayered airline ticket was proposed.  Then, Gary Barron, executive vice president and chief operations officer, asked, “Why don’t we just print THIS IS A TICKET in big, bold, red letters on the receipt?”  Instead of spending $2 million to follow the rest of the industry, Southwest modified its ticket stock with the caption, and it worked.”

TRUST YOUR TEAM

“Just before Vice President, Al Gore visited Southwest Airlines in March 1993 in search of ideas for his reinventing government initiative, an advanced team was sent to headquarters to establish security and make final preparations.  The advanced team wanted to give Southwest a list of questions for employees to ask Mr Gore and suggested that Southwest handpick the people who would ask the questions, to reduce the risk that the vice president or Southwest Airlines would be embarrassed.  Kelleher remembers Colleen Barrett saying, “No, our people would be so offended by that.  I’m not worried about who the vice president calls on.  Our people will be spontaneous; they will ask good, substantive questions; and they will be articulate!”  The event actually turned out to be like the big, spontaneous town hall meeting the advance team envisioned.  More importantly, it showed the trust and confidence Barrett has in Southwest employees, her interest in seeing them express their individuality, and her commitment to protecting the freedom of expression.”

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an easy to read book on how important collaboration and culture is.  You can buy it from Book depository or Amazon.

Below is an entertaining video showing the freedom of Southwest Employees.